Today’s leaders should forge pathways from barriers

There seems to be a lot of sabre-rattling in the world these days, which is troubling because it’s not actual sabres that are being rattled: it’s ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. I was thinking about this as I was mowing my lawn, which includes the path that connects my back yard to my neighbour’s.

Between my house and my neighbour’s lies a tract of unused land covered in weeds, wild shrubs and trees, creating a clear separation between our homes. In my first summer there, I was out mowing one morning and decided to make access to my neighbour’s yard a little easier. With my garden machete, I cut through weeds and shrubs to create a path as far as the trees. Later that day, I wondered in true Canadian fashion if that was acceptable, as the land is my neighbour’s, but soon after, I heard a gas-powered brush cutter at work. When I went outside, I saw the rest of the passage had been cut through the trees, providing a convenient path from one backyard to the other.

Over the years, my neighbour and I have used that path countless times to our mutual benefit. We are completely different people: he has no university background, and university is almost all I have known; he knows how to survive in the woods with ease, and the only thing I know about wilderness survival is that I should wait patiently for my neighbour to come and rescue me. I have hauled my mower up to my neighbour’s shed numerous times for repairs, as he can fix any engine. He has often come down to seek my advice and counsel when he hits a rough patch in life. We have delivered chocolate cake to him, and he has delivered fiddleheads and apples to us. He works on my household items, and I work on his soul. He’s a Search and Rescue volunteer, and when search and rescue becomes search and recovery, he comes down the path so I can debrief him.

We talk, drink coffee, canoe and snowshoe together, and in many ways look after each other. The path has remained in place over the course of almost twenty-five years, and we use it when we need to, and sometimes when we don’t.

I was thinking of that path, mutually created and shared, and how it provides access for conversation and mutual assistance. I know it seems a little idealistic, but maybe the world needs more paths like that, not just between people but between nations. Instead of tweeting at each other and rattling sabres, maybe leaders could be speaking with each other, and using their weapons to cut through brush and other things that divide – there is a biblical image about turning spears into pruning hooks, after all. I would like to see more pathways, both real and metaphorical, in the world, as I look out on it through stained glass.

PostScript: Permission for publication has been given by the individual described.

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